By Lori Latusek

Soap Opera Digest

December 5, 2006

Ben Masters talks about the challenges of playing Julian, kissing his co-star and why PASSIONS is his last gig

Digest: How do you feel about Julian's turn back to being mean and heartless?

Ben Masters: I used to play the part with a lot more whimsy and humor. But over the years, he transformed into a more serious character. So when he gets bad again, it's almost like he's getting serious bad, and it's hard to bring the lightness back to it, which I really enjoyed playing. I'm feeling my way around what the writers give me and trying to do my best to massage it into this new facet of this character without making him so hateful.

Digest: Julian/Eve fans blame his personality change for breaking up the couple.

Masters: It's hard for me to even go on this one board anymore called the Secret Desires board []. Tracey and I had a lot of followers in the lead-up to our characters getting together, and now they are very disheartened. I would predict that that board will find its way into oblivion.

Digest: Does it surprise you that the fans are so in love with this duo?

Masters: It's interesting that an audience invests so much in two characters. I received a 20-page treatment on the break-up of Julian and Eve from a fan. She wrote, "This isn't the Julian that was fun to watch. This is a mean-spirited, dark-hearted, evil man." It's like she had taken it personally. I had to put the letter down.

Digest: Were the breakup scenes difficult for you?

Masters: They were very difficult to do because I love Tracey in real life. It was not so much that we are together in real life [that made it difficult], but it was the obstruction of a couple that had come a long, long way. It was like the death of a really good friend, and it was hard. Julian keeps having little hopes that they will get back together, but he's doing some bad stuff.

Digest: Yeah, like having sex with Valerie, which came out of nowhere!

Masters: Yes, it did. But he had needs and Eve was not meeting those needs. It was her fault! That scene got a lot of response on the boards. [A viewer wrote] "That was the most disgusting thing that I've ever seen on a soap opera." The thing was, Daphnee [Duplaix Samuel, Valerie], was four months pregnant at the time and we had all of our clothes on and her legs were literally pointed away from mine. We were just hugging with the tops of our bodies. The grunting, I guess that's what did it. But it was totally nothing. You see these scenes with these young people and they're all naked and slobbering all over.

Digest: You seem to be an open person, so why did you and Tracey keep your romance on the down-low at first?

Masters: Because I'm a skeptic, I suppose. I believe in relationships, but I'm not a real believer in "happily ever after." And I'm not the kind of person to say, "Oh, we're madly in love and here's the white picket fence." You don't know what will happen in life. I'm a divorced guy. When that happened years ago, it came out of nowhere. I'm wary of publicly declaring things that perhaps shouldn't be public. Tracey and I just let it play out. The more we were around each other and went to things, it became more and more obvious. But I had been in love with her for a long time, so there you go.

Digest: When did you cross the line from colleagues to lovers?

Masters: It's very akin to high school; that bong hitting you upside the head. I knew Tracey for four years and we'd be doing a scene where she is in a negligee. Finally you just say, "Come here," and you start kissing her because you can't take it anymore.

Digest: The show went through budget cuts this year. Were you scared you would lose your job?

Masters: I'm just surprised that I had a job this long. If you count on something, you can be scared of losing it, but I never counted on this. I'm at the point in my life where I'm really getting ready to retire and drink wine and do nothing. I would like to do this as long as they would like me to do it and as long as it's being done. I had a preview of retirement at the first of the year when I was basically off for three months.

Digest: Did you audition for anything else?

Masters: No. The way the business is now, there are so few jobs. I've done well enough in my life that I don't need to bother anymore with that. I like to work on PASSIONS when I work and then enjoy my life as a nonactor when I'm not working on PASSIONS. This is going to be it for me. It's been a really great time. It will be eight years in June that I've been doing this. I never, ever thought I'd have a job that lasted that long.

Just the Facts

Birthday: May 6
Home And Away: The actor splits his time between a 44-foot Hunter sailboat named Elan off the shores of Los Angeles and a home in Palm Desert, CA.
Uncle Ben: When it's time to give gifts for birthdays, holidays and all those beautiful babies being born around Harmony, Masters passes out cash. "It's simple. Five dollars," he jokes.
Dad For A Day: "I wish that, at one time or another, fate would've put me in the position to be a father or to have children. I miss that. I guess I could just rent one for a while."
The Son Comes Up: Masters appreciates his relationship with Tracey Ross's (Eve) teenage son. "We're real close and I really care about him a lot. He's a good kid."
Favorite Childhood Show: LASSIE.
Waiting In The Wings: "I wish I would've gotten a pilot's license. There's something about that freedom, but I think I'd be too scared. At least in a boat you're on the water and all you could do is sink."

My Favorite Years

After seven years in Harmony, Ben Masters has certainly had some standout storylines.

"I don't know if I thought it was fun when I was doing it, but looking back on it, a high point was with [the late] Josh [Ryan Evans, ex-Timmy] when Timmy and Julian went to Oz and the nutty, crazed, whacked-out, zany stuff that [Head Writer] Jim Reilly came up with.," shares Masters. "Every day I'd go to work and it was just so weird, from all the little people to being on a chicken truch. And when Julian wrestled that lady Big Dog and she put him in an airplane spin, that was one of my favorites. The prom boat disaster is one of my favorites. Julian was wearing a wrist corsage, drunk out of his mind, and he saw Timmy talking for the first time. Also, getting Julian and Eve together. Of course, being on top of a jet at 80,000 feet flying at 700 miles per hour and not having your hair get messed up is also a high point."

Masters Series

PASSIONS's Ben Masters (Julian) is not only entertaining on the tube, he makes us laugh over the phone. Digest had so much to discuss with him, but only so much room his 12/5 feature, "Big Ben," so we decided to share the rest of the interview here.

Soap Opera Digest: Julian and Eve have gone from lovers to fighters.

Ben Masters: Just after shooting the heavy scenes between Tracey [Ross, Eve] and myself, these four "Evian" fans came to the set. They had purchased this lunch at the fan club luncheon last year. They flew in from Ohio and Alabama, and we had lunch with them at the commissary. We had just gotten off of me calling Tracey "a dirty whore" during a scene and saying that she does her best work on her hands and knees. Tracey and I shared a little bit of what we could without letting the cat out of the bag with the fans. They were like, "What? Oh, no!" All they had seen so far was us having a little spat here and there. But I said, "You better get ready because it's going to get real ugly."

Digest: It was pretty ugly when Eve caught Julian boinking Valerie in his office.

Masters: My point of view is, of course, a male point of view, but if you look back at all of the things ... look at the Valerie thing just for fun ... It's almost understandable the way this man reacted because how many times over the last two or three years has he bent over backwards, offered the other cheek, did all he could to help TC, did all this stuff for her daughters, tried to take her to Paris, asked her to marry him? In real life, if a man and a woman had that relationship, I could almost understand why the guy finally goes, "You know, the hell with it? That's it! I can't do this anymore." She is a confounding woman who knows what her situation is. If you remember back, she's a woman who carries Rohypnol, the date rape drug, around in her doctor bag. Theresa could get ahold of it. Come on! None of us are perfect.

Digest: How did you feel about Fancy and Luis's porn scene? After all, she is Julian's daughter.

Masters: I've done some really embarrassing things. I'm unembarassable.


Digest: Do you ad-lib?

Masters: No, I don't ad-lib. I do change things sometimes. For instance, Julian was talking to Fox and I was supposed to say, "I will not have my son lose in a competition with an ignorant fisherman," meaning Miguel. So I changed it to "ignorant fishmonger" because it's just a weird word. But I follow things pretty closely. That's why they wrote them.

Digest: Julian has uttered some pretty nasty words, like the previously mentioned "whore." Have you toned any of them down?

Masters: I try not to. It's not something for me [that is] glaringly ugly [or] racist. I used to say a lot of stuff about the Lopez-Fitzgeralds, like, "the Latino lover boy." But there is not a whole lot that offends me.

Digest: Who is in your social circle?

Masters: I really don't have a social circle. The people at PASSIONS really don't hang out together. I play golf once in awhile with James Hyde [Sam]. But when I'm at my house in the desert, I've got some nice neighbors and we sometimes go play golf or go to a casino and do a little gambling, but I'm not a big social person.

Digest: Do your neighbors know what you do for a living?

Masters: Yeah, but they can't quite put it together. They say, "Oh, we TiVo'd your show and saw you. Is that really you? I don't understand. You don't act anything like you do in real life." It's strange, but they are nice people.

Digest: Since you and Tracey are together in real life, have you taught her son, Bryce, how to sail?

Masters: He's been on my boat before, but you can't get teenagers ... they're just thinking about girls. If I had a girl on the boat that wasn't his mother.... He works and goes to school and practices with his band. It's like, "Come on, it will only take you an hour to get there and then we'll go out for four hours and I hope you don't get seasick." He's too busy for that.

Digest: You and Bryce have something in common — you have both broken your neck.

Masters: I went to the Caribbean with Tracey two Christmases ago and Bryce broke his neck jumping into the ocean, but he's all right. That was something — to learn about the workings of the Bahamian hospital system, which was a very good system. But I was hoping that he didn't have to have what I had, the halo traction with bolts in your skull. He convinced the doctor he would be a good boy and wouldn't be lurching around every time a girl in a miniskirt would walk by.

Digest: Hmm. Maybe Julian should be in one of those!